Speculation has reached fever-pitch in France that the country's former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is poised to make a political comeback.
Bernadette Chirac, the wife of Jacques Chirac, who preceded Sarkozy as president and a staunch supporter of Sarkozy, told French radio she "certainly" hoped Sarkozy would stand as a candidate in the 2017 presidential elections.
"I certainly hope so," she said in a live interview with Europe 1 radio on Wednesday, before adding that she had been forbidden to say anything more on the matter.
The journalist interviewing Chirac pushed the matter, saying "We understand that the answer is yes..." Chirac replied: "Right….of course."
(Read more: Could France see the return of Nicolas Sarkozy?)
Sarkozy was president between May 2007 and May 2012, before being defeated by the current socialist president, Francois Hollande. While Sarkozy has never admitted to eyeing a return to the Elysee Palace, many expect the former leader of the center-right UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) to try and reclaim his position in the directionless and troubled party.
The interview by Chirac – the wife of Jacques Chirac, who preceded Sarkozy as president --came only one day after Sarkozy's latest publicity stunt – a return to social media platform Instagram after more than a year away. Many commentators in the French media interpreted the move as the launch of a pre-presidential campaign communication strategy.
Sarkozy posted a photograph of himself chatting with a staff member in a café in Miromesnil, Paris, near to his office. The caption on his photo read: "Happy new year to the neighborhood's retailers and thank you for the coffee!"
This was Sarkozy's first update on Instagram since his defeat in 2012. Since then, he has made only sporadic appearances on social platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Nonetheless, members of the UMP continue to support him, and have created the "Friends of Nicolas Sarkozy" association. They have raised 11 million euros ($14.9 million) for the party since Sarkozy's campaign accounts were invalidated by the Constitutional Counsel in July 2013.
Chirac's near-admission about Sarkozy came a week after a heavily scrutinized press conference by Hollande, in which the current president tried to keep attention on his economic policies rather than his alleged affair with a French actress.
Hollande is attempting to fight a stagnating economy and record high unemployment, and is also battling very low popularity ratings. However, the public response to his alleged indiscretion has been muted compared with the anger provoked by Sarkozy's divorce while in-office and his romance with model/singer Carla Bruni.
According to a leading Ifop poll conducted earlier this month, 77 percent of French people believe that Hollande's possible affair is a "private matter".
CNBC contacted "Friends of Nicolas Sarkozy" and the UMP about whether Sarkozy might run again as president, but both organisations declined to comment.
(Read more: Hollande avoids personal life as he unveils reforms)
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